Lopez and Ortiz Headline ShoBox Card

NEW YORK (Jan. 18, 2007) – The philosophy of the popular SHOWTIME boxing series, “ShoBox: The New Generation’’ is simple: to televise exciting, crowd-pleasing and competitive matches while providing a proving ground for willing young fighters determined to fight for a world title. Since its inception in July 2001, several “ShoBox’’ alums not only have challenged for, but won world titles, among them: Leonard Dorin, Scott Harrison, Juan Diaz, Jeff Lacy, Ricky Hatton, Robert Guerrero, Eric Aiken, Juan Urango, David Diaz (interim), and Kermit Cintron..

By many accounts, fans may be witnessing two more future world champions when Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez and “Vicious” Victor Ortiz co-headline the Friday, Jan. 19 edition of “ShoBox”.

Like the rapid-fire punches the southpaws so eloquently and devastatingly deliver, the accolades have come fast and furiously for Top Rank Inc.’s pair of prolific prized prospects.

The world-ranked Lopez, 23, is not even as light as a feather – he fights at 122 pounds – but, as Dan Rafael of points out, “the kid is a stud, possesses scary power and could be Puerto Rico’s next superstar. He is a tremendous prospect who looks as bright as any future star in the sport.”

Ortiz, a junior welterweight who turns 20 on Jan. 31, is “one of the most dynamic, crowd-pleasing prospects around,” Rafael said. “View him as undefeated because his lone loss was a bogus first-round disqualification. He may not be the prospect Lopez is – yet, but I love the kid.”

“Lopez and Ortiz are the cream of the crop of Top Rank’s up-and-coming fighters,” added Rafael, who included the fighters in his 2007 “Top Prospects” column. “There is no doubt both are in great position to become future world champions if they continue to progress.”

Boxing reporter David Avila of the Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.) ranked Ortiz No. 1 in the “Best Puncher” category in his 2006 year-end boxing recap. “There are fighters whom others fear to tread. Ortiz is one of them,” Avila said. “He has one-punch KO power that can strip an opponent of his senses. Ortiz packs power in each fist and is following the lead of Manny Pacquiao, with whom he's sparred many times.”

Both Lopez and Ortiz face stern assignments on Jan. 19. Lopez (14-0, 12 KOs) faces 22-year-old Cuauhtemoc (pronounced “kwah-teh-mock’’) “El Guerrero Azteca” Vargas (15-1-1, 10 KOs) in the 10-round main event. Ortiz (16-1, 11 KOs) meets unbeaten Marvin “Much Too Much” Cordova Jr. (12-0, eight KOs) in the eight-round welterweight co-feature.

“(Executive producer) Gordon Hall deserves credit, this is a perfect ‘ShoBox’ show,” Rafael said.

Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc., will promote the attractive doubleheader on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) from the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Ariz.

Nick Charles and Steve Farhood, the “ShoBox” blow-by-blow announcer and color commentator, respectively, are looking forward to the exciting twinbill.

“I am really anxious to see Lopez,” Charles said. “He is a southpaw who has power and technique, and can box or brawl. This will be our second look at Ortiz on ‘ShoBox.’ Ortiz has come a long way fast and has character wise beyond his years.

“As exciting as Ortiz is, though,” Charles continued, “what impresses me the most is how mature and focused he is despite the kind of personal adversity that could crumble a lot of people. Ortiz was virtually abandoned by both his mother and father. He has won custody of his younger brother. Yet, he is going to college and paying the price in the gym for a chance to be somebody.

“Cordova will be an underdog. He cannot match up in the power department. But, if he uses his quickness and hand speed, he can present problems. Bottom line, we have a match-up that offers two hungry unbeaten fighters in their early 20s a chance to make a statement on national television. There is a lot of upside for the winner.”

Offered Farhood: “When you are a top prospect from Puerto Rico, everybody feels the need to compare you to other great Puerto Rican fighters. Lopez is compared to everybody, perhaps most often Wilfredo Gomez. I see a physically dominant lefty who throws technically sound punches. His advantage over fellow junior featherweights is his strength more than his speed. He has looked spectacular so far.

“What I like best about Lopez, however, is that unlike a lot of lefties, he is a threat with both hands. Lopez is taking a step up against Vargas, who is experienced, tough and 10 rounds tested. It should be an action-packed fight, a punch-counter's delight.

“Ortiz looked devastating when he fought on ‘ShoBox’ last March,” Farhood continued. “The kid is very poised and focused. It is difficult to believe he is only 19. He is a strong, aggressive lefty who throws straight punches. Ortiz may be a teenager, but he has the look of a polished fighter.

“Cordova has not faced a high level of opposition, but he is unbeaten and has fast hands. This is an excellent match-up for Ortiz at this stage of his career.”

The current World Boxing Organization (WBO) No. 6 and World Boxing Association (WBA) No. 9 super bantamweight contender, Lopez was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and resides in Caguas, the hometown of stablemate and unbeaten WBA welterweight champion, Miguel Cotto.

After more than a handful of fistfights, Lopez went to a gym the first time when he was 10.

“My older brother boxed as an amateur and my father used to go to the gym, but he did not box,” Lopez said. “I used to fight a lot in school. (Finally) I was told, ‘You know, you should not be doing that in the streets. You should go to a gym.’ So that is what I did.”

Tremendously talented at an early age, the five-foot-seven-inch Lopez became Puerto Rico’s 2005 pro “Prospect of the Year” after representing his country in the 2004 Olympic Games. A five-time national champion (2000-04, at 112 and 119 pounds), Lopez went 126-24 in the amateurs.

Lopez turned pro at age 21 on Jan. 29, 2005. He went 8-0 with eight knockouts in ’05; 6-0 with four knockouts in ’06. He made a spectacular impression in his second outing in the United States when he scored a sensational one-punch, third-round knockout over Jose Caro on Jan. 21, 2006, in Las Vegas.

“People talk about me as being the next great boxer from Puerto Rico,” said Lopez, who will make his fifth U.S. start. “A lot compare my style to Wilfredo Gomez. I think I have some similarities with him, but I have other skills, too. I am aggressive. I go forward. (But) I think I have a good defense.

“They say my power is something that they rarely see at this weight. I cannot say where the power comes from. Maybe it’s something I have inside, or because I am so disciplined.”

The only time Lopez has been knocked down came in the first round in his fifth start when he took on Charles Jones Aug. 20, 2005, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. “It was weird to find myself on the floor,” Lopez said. “It was the first time I ever went down in my life. My trainers always said I should take my time getting up, but I was fine and I knew he couldn’t take my punches, so I decided to shut him out.”

The rugged, physically strong Lopez more than blanked Jones; he blitzed him, scoring three knockdowns before the round had ended. Jones was counted out at 3:00 of the first.

Lopez is coming off of knockout victories over vets Edel Ruiz and Jose Alonso, who had a combined 59-24-6 record. He scored a seventh-round TKO over Ruiz on July 21, 2006, in Uncasville, Conn., and a third-round TKO over Alonso to capture the WBO Latino title on Sept. 30 in Caguas.

This will be Lopez’ first fight in three-and-one-half months, which marks his longest layoff. “I am in great shape and not worried about being rusty,” he said. “I want to show the people what kind of fighter I am. I want to show a powerful network like SHOWTIME what I am made of.”

A young guy who outworks and dominates opponents with a two-fisted attack, Lopez has gone eight rounds once. He is managed by Antonio Pinero and trained by Alex Caraballo.

Vargas, of Albuquerque, N.M., by way of Mexico City, is a poised, crowd-pleasing boxer-puncher with good skills and movement. He is a sharp puncher with power who throws a constant stream of accurate leather in combinations and makes for excellent scraps. Yet, when necessary, he is patient and can box.

“I always liked boxing and wanted to try it out. I started when I was 14,” said Vargas, who went 25-0 in the amateurs. “It was just in me. Boxing is in my blood.”

The younger cousin of Goyo and Adan Vargas, a former world featherweight champion and a bantamweight contender, respectively, turned pro at age 16 on May 25, 2001, in Mexico, where his first seven fights took place. At 18, he made his U.S. debut. All of his last 10 outings have been in the states.

In an impressive performance, Vargas scored a seventh-round TKO over fellow unbeaten Erik Rodriguez June 4, 2004, in Tucson, Ariz., to improve to 12-0. The non-stop punching Vargas threw a whopping 125 punches in the third round. The left hand was his most impressive weapon. He fired ripping left-only combos in bunches. He showed punch diversity by mixing in right and left uppercuts during flurries.

A kid who likes to slug it out, Vargas rebounded from an eight-round draw against Jaime Orrantia on Oct. 1, 2004, in Oroville, Calif., to capture the World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas crown with a 10-round decision over Francisco Urrabazo on April 15, 2005, in Albuquerque.

Vargas’s only loss came on an eighth-round TKO to Tomas Villa on Oct. 28, 2005, in Las Vegas.

Fast paced and thrilling from the outset, both fighters took turns hurting and fouling the other. Vargas rocked Villa in the eighth, but went down from a left hook in the last minute. He was counted out at 2:48. Vargas was ahead on all the scorecards (67-64 twice and 66-65) after seven rounds.

In his last start and lone 2006 effort, Vargas, the former sparring partner of Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez, registered two knockdowns en route to a seventh-round TKO over Sergio Aguila on Sept. 23 in Isleta, N.M.

Vargas is promoted by Fresquez Promotions, managed by Ursulo Perez and co-trained by Dominic Casas and his son, Pablo.

Ortiz grew up in Kansas and moved to Oxnard, Calif., in 2003. He began boxing at age seven. “My father took me to the gym so I would learn how to fight. I kept coming home from school crying because other kids were beating me up and making fun of me,” Ortiz said.

Initially, the younger Ortiz was reluctant to lace up the gloves. “It looked scary to me,” he said. But his father was insistent. So, Ortiz fought, but once he lost, he said, “My dad lost hope in me. He was like, ‘You are not going to be anything in this family’.”

Ortiz had a rough childhood. “My parents divorced when my brother, sister and I were kids,” he said. “Our dad became an alcoholic and just forgot about us. My mom left with her boyfriend.

“My brother, Temo, stayed with his friends. For a while, he stayed with my sister, Carmen, when she was living with her boyfriend. They were together a long time, living in the same house where we used to live. I lived with another family when I was 15. In many ways, it was like a foster home.

“(But) They kept me up with school and made sure I got good grades. I followed their routine and made sure everything was going good. But, after a while, I knew I could not stay with them any more.

Ortiz’ sister wound up living in group and foster homes. Eventually she moved to Denver, which is where Victor wound up for a time.

“I could no longer live where I was,” Ortiz said. His sister, then 18, took custody of him. “That is why I moved to Denver.”

Ortiz had his share of lowlights in the Mile High City. “There came times when I had nothing to eat and my sister could not really do anything about it,” he said. “She had her own responsibilities. She had her job. There were times she had to pay rent and we ended up with no food, no money for the week.

“We went through some really tough situations. I do not know how we overcame all that, but it made me a stronger person. I learned that everything has its price and nothing comes free in life.

Ortiz moved to Oxnard shortly thereafter. He graduated from Pacifica High School in June 2005.

“I took junior and senior year the same year,” he said. “It was really hard. They gave me 10 classes the first semester and 10 classes the second semester. When I received my class ring, I was so excited. It’s got a boxing glove on it and says ‘Victor’ on one side with the boxing glove, and 2005 on the other.”

In late 2006, Ortiz, who now attends Oxnard Junior College, got custody of his brother, Temo. “So, now, Temo has a big brother to direct him a little, just like I had my big sister, Carmen, who is 22 now. He moved with me a couple of months ago. He is just 17, so I put him in school. He is doing well and is one of the most popular kids there.”

Since moving to Oxnard, Ortiz has trained at La Colonia Youth Boxing Club. In February 2004, the then-16-year-old became the youngest person in his weight class (138 pounds) to make it to the U.S. Olympic Trials, but was eliminated on points by Anthony Peterson of Washington, D.C.

After a sensational amateur career in which he went 141-20 and was the 2003 National Junior Olympic and National PAL champion at 132 pounds, Ortiz turned pro at age 17 on June 4, 2004. He won his initial seven starts until losing by disqualification to Corey Alarcon on June 3, 2005, in Oxnard.

Ortiz has won nine consecutive bouts, six inside of the distance, since the aforementioned controversial first-round DQ. “The decision to disqualify me was bull,” said Ortiz, who decked Alarcon twice. After going down a second time, Alarcon did not get up. The referee, however, ruled that the second knockdown punch was illegal.

“The referee said, ‘Box out,’ he did not say ‘break.’ I think it was a cop out what Alarcon did,” Ortiz said. “People saw I did not lose this fight. The ref never called a break. He was tongue-tied. In my mind, there is no doubt I won the fight. He was already weak. He did not want to fight.”

In his “ShoBox’’ debut on March 31, 2006, Ortiz stole the show by hammering out a first-round knockout over previously undefeated Jose “Freddie” Barrera (10-0-1 going in) at Maywood, Calif. The rangy five-foot-nine-inch lefty dropped Barrera twice in the scheduled eight-rounder. Following a second brutal knockdown from a wicked right hook, the referee halted the bout at 2:42 of the opening round.

“I saw the opening and caught it just right. I slammed it,” Ortiz said. “I had seen the look on Barrera’s face and in his eyes, and he was done. It was a very good impression that we made, but I think the fight could have been a little harder. Barrera’s good. He landed a couple of punches. I wasn't expecting it to go one round.”

Fast, smart and improving all the time, the highly regarded puncher further established himself as a world-class prospect with an eight-round decision over former WBO bantamweight champion Alfred Kotey on Sept. 8, 2006, in Dallas. It was a dominant performance, with all three judges scoring the fight a shutout.

Ortiz has progressed dramatically in a short time. “Believe me, I have come a long way since my pro debut,” he said. “I have learned patience and how to concentrate on defense. I am not the same guy.”

In his last start, Ortiz scored his sixth knockout in seven starts with a second-round stoppage over Yair Aguilar on Nov. 3, 2006, in Nogales, Ariz.

Managed by Cameron Dunkin, Ortiz is co-trained by the father-son duo of Eduardo Garcia and former IBF 130-pound champion Robert Garcia.

Cordova, who was born in Rocky Ford, Colo., and resides in Pueblo, Colo., is a hot prospect who has fought some decent opposition in a pro career that began with a spectacular fourth-round knockout over Luciana Silva on Aug. 7, 2004, in Mashantucket, Conn.

A former World Junior Olympic champion who went 186-12 as an amateur and captured 14 national titles, the five-foot-nine-inch boxer-puncher has yet to face a prospect as highly regarded as Ortiz, but is confident that he can make the best of the opportunity.

“I am truly excited,” Cordova said. “This is my chance to show what I can bring to the table against a world-class opponent on a major league network.”

Cordova has been boxing since he was four. His father, Marvin Sr., has trained him since the beginning. “We had a gym in our back yard for a while when I was young,” Marvin Jr. said. “(Eventually) I just started going to the gym with my dad, working out and running with the big boys.

“I was running five miles when I was eight years old. Later on, my father opened his own gym.”

In his last bout, Cordova stopped the usually durable Lee Cargle in the fourth round on Oct. 8, 2006, in Junction City, Kansas.

“I am a boxer,” Cordova said. “I like to box, but I can bang, too. I am naturally right-handed and I usually box right-handed, but I mix it up southpaw sometimes. I just switch it up to get them off-balance.

“My jab is my key to set everything up. I double, triple it up. I land my left hook to the body, then up top. I feel I have great speed. I am real fast with my hands and my feet.”

Cordova is co-trained by his father and Eppie Duran, and promoted by Zef Ramirez.

Charles and Farhood will call the action from ringside. The executive producer of “ShoBox” is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing.

Article posted on 18.01.2007

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